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The Fall 2021 catalyst competition is Now CLOSED.


 Download the Fall 2021 RFP here.


Catalyst Success Spotlights

Congratulations to the Spring 2021 CNS Catalyst award winners: Su Yeong Kim/Elizabeth Matsui ("Air Quality, Socio-cultural Stressors, and Health in Latinx Adolescents") and Vernita Gordon/Bryan Davies/Mark Raizen ("Radioisotope-based Tools for Preventing and Ameliorating Bacterial Biofilms")!

Several previous CNS Catalyst award winners have leveraged the results from their “catalyzed” studies into successful NSF, NIH, and DoD proposals. Congratulations!

  • Molly Cummings, “NSF/Collaborative Research: UV-MultiSpectral-Polarization 3D Imaging of the Underwater World” (NSF, $630,448)
  • Marvin Whiteley, “Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy: A Tool for Studying Chronic Wound Infections” (DoD, $98,146)
  • Ilya Finkelstein, "Mechanism, Specificity, and Design of CRISPR RNA-mediated Gene Regulation" (NIH, $2,347,245)
  • Su Yeong Kim, "Socio-cultural Stress Profiles, Stress Responses, and Academic and Health Outcomes in Mexican American Adolescents" (Russell Sage Foundation, $50,000)
  • Su Yeong Kim, "Socio-cultural Stress Profiles, Stress Responses, and Health in Mexican American Adolescents" (NIH, $457,615)
  • Carlos Baiz, “Protein Structure and Dynamics in Ultra-heterogeneous Environments” (NIH Maximizing Investigators' Research Award for Early Stage Investigators, $1,023,424)
  • Alex Huk, "Maximizing flexibility: Optimized neural probes and electronics for long term, high bandwidth recordings" (NIH U01, $4,154,653)
  • Tim Yeh and Jenny Brodbelt, "Studying interactions among metal nanoclusters, host ligands and small-molecule analytes" (NSF, $599,559)

About CNS Catalyst Grants

The CNS Catalyst Grant program is a College of Natural Sciences (CNS) internal funding mechanism meant to inspire interdisciplinary research collaborations that will seed efforts to secure external funding. Proposals for interdisciplinary projects with faculty members from different UT departments or colleges, including Dell Medical School, are requested. Principal investigators who accept a CNS Catalyst Grant must commit to the pursuit of external funding for the collaborative effort within 12 to 18 months of receiving Catalyst Grant funding. The CNS Strategic Research Initiatives Office will, as needed, assist teams receiving Catalyst Grant funding with the development of their proposal to an external funding agency.


Since its inception in the spring of 2014, 84 proposals have been submitted to the CNS Catalyst Grant program over ten competitions. In addition to collaborators from 15 CNS departments and ORUs, these interdisciplinary proposals have included investigators from the Cockrell School of Engineering, the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Education, the Jackson School of Geosciences, and Dell Medical School. This broad expertise has enriched a diversity of proposed research topics ranging from the impacts of language brokering on educational outcomes in Mexican-American adolescents to the development of next-generation wound dressings. Click the link below to view past CNS Catalyst Grant winners.



Award Information

Up to two CNS Catalyst Grants ($50,000 maximum each) will be awarded to teams of 2 or more members to begin new interdisciplinary research collaborations. Two award cycles are being offered for Fiscal Year 2021-2022, with proposal deadlines in October and March. Teams whose CNS Catalyst Grant proposals are not selected in a given award cycle are allowed to resubmit their proposals up to two times in subsequent cycles.


Eligibility Guidelines

CNS Catalyst Grant funding is meant to catalyze new research collaborations in high-impact, emerging fields that have potential for major external funding. With this goal in mind, we expect that a successful Catalyst Grant proposal will possess the following characteristics:


  • Project teams should include at least two members, each with a primary UT appointment to a different academic department, who are tenure-track faculty, non-tenure-track faculty or permanent research scientists, and who have not previously received external funding as a team. The participation of individuals at the Assistant and Associate Professor ranks is particularly encouraged. Adjunct faculty, visiting researchers and postdocs are not eligible Co-PIs but may be named investigators in proposals.

  • Eligible individuals may only participate in one application per cycle.
  • Cross-college collaborations are allowed, but Catalyst Grant funds may only be used to support the CNS portion of the collaboration. If a cross-college collaboration requires funding or in-kind support for the other college, the commitment for those funds or support must be provided by the other college and be described in the proposal submission.
  • Project teams must provide convincing evidence that external funding exists that will be viable to pursue. Targeted grant mechanism must be identified at the time of proposal submission.

  • The timeline for submitting a Catalyst Grant application should be 12 to 18 months ahead of the team’s anticipated submission to one or more target external grant programs.

  • Previous Catalyst Grant winners may apply no sooner than two calendar years from their winning competition cycle (e.g., a winner from Fall 2019 would not be eligible to submit another application until Fall 2021).

  • Previously successful investigator teams are not eligible to submit a new Catalyst proposal as a team.
  • Non-awarded applicants from previous cycles may resubmit their proposals only twice.


What Will a CNS Catalyst Grant Pay For?

CNS Catalyst Grant funding should develop promising new research areas and teams in order to enhance competitiveness of applications to external agencies.


ALLOWED Expenses:

  • Materials/supplies/consumables

  • Equipment (<$5,000)
  • Graduate student support including tuition; Postdoc or Research Scientist support. (Note: Salary funds may only be paid to UT-Austin employees and may not be transferred outside the University.)

  • Travel or conference hosting for team-building in advance of external sponsor proposal submission


  • Faculty salary (summer or otherwise)

  • Administrative or secretarial support


Application Instructions

Application Website: https://utexas.infoready4.com/#competitionDetail/1850094

Create your application (UT EID and password required) and upload the items listed below at the application website by 4:59 PM, October 4, 2021, to be considered for CNS Catalyst Grant funding in this award cycle. 


Application items for items 1-6 below should have 1-inch margins and use a 12-point font. Please combine all components into a single pdf file.


1. Lay Summary with Keywords. In 200 words or less, provide an “elevator pitch” for your collaboration and proposed project. Describe for a general audience the potential impact. Following the lay summary, include 5 – 10 keywords that categorize the research proposed in this application.


2. Proposal. Limit to three (3) pages. Organize the proposal in the specified order using the section headings (Rationale and Vision, Justification, Participating Faculty) and the instructions provided below.


  • Rationale and vision. Explain the innovative and transformative nature of the proposed interdisciplinary collaboration, and provide an assessment of why the project team is particularly well-positioned to develop competitive external proposals in this research area.  

  • Justification. Explain why a Catalyst Grant is required to initiate the collaboration, and how the grant will impact the team’s probability of success in securing external funding.

  • Participating Faculty.  List participating faculty members providing a clear explanation of each member’s role in the collaboration. If your proposal involves faculty members from other colleges, describe the source(s) of support for those members’ portion of the collaboration.

3. External Funding Landscape. Limit to one (1) page. Summarize the external funding landscape for which the seed funding proposal is being prepared and plans to pursue external funding. Include an anticipated timeline with milestones for development of an external proposal, names of potential sponsoring agencies, and relevant deadlines for those agencies.

4. Budget and budget justification. No page limit. Submit a detailed budget outlining expenditures in appropriate categories. Other resources that will be committed to the effort, such as support from academic units, should also be outlined. If your proposal involves a cross-college collaboration, specify the source of support for the other college’s participation and provide email confirmation of preliminary commitment from the appropriate college/department/center.

5. Response to prior reviews. For applications being resubmitted for consideration, please summarize in a single paragraph any changes made to the proposal to address prior reviews.

6. Biosketches/CVs and Current and Pending Support.  Submit biosketches/CVs and Current and Pending Support documents for all members of the faculty team.


Application Review Process and Evaluation Criteria

A standing faculty review panel with general subject matter expertise will evaluate CNS Catalyst Grant applications, so proposals should be written in a style accessible to non-experts.Up to two awards will be announced approximately 4 weeks after each grant cycle deadline, and funds will be disbursed approximately 6 weeks after each deadline.The following evaluation criteria will be used and given equal weight:

  • Demonstrated commitment by the faculty team to establish a new interdisciplinary collaboration.

  • Evidence that Catalyst Grant funding will enable the faculty team to overcome identified barriers that currently prohibit a successful collaboration.

  • The proposed collaboration’s potential to enhance UT-Austin’s competitiveness in securing external funding.

  • Strength of the proposed plan to secure external funding.

  • The project is in a high-impact, emerging field that has the potential for major external funding.
  • The scientific merit and rationale of the proposed project are sound, and the scope of the proposal is feasible for the Catalyst performance period.


What's Required of Me After I Receive a CNS Catalyst Grant?

In addition to submitting a proposal for external funding, you must submit the following information to Dan Bost in the Office of Research and Facilities 6 and 12 months after receiving the award:

  • A two-page progress report including (i) research outcomes and (ii) progress toward securing external funding. If progress has been hindered in one or both of these areas, a clear explanation for the delay is required.

  • A list of any other key outcomes of Catalyst Grant funding (e.g., manuscripts published or submitted; external collaborations formed)

 Successful collaborative teams may also be asked to:

  • Highlight their collaborations in a College-wide forum such as a CNS Town Hall meeting or research symposium.

  • Provide subject matter expertise by participating on a review panel for a future Catalyst Grant competition.